Originally published in the National Post.
This is exciting: the column I wrote earlier this week on the folly of forcing immigrants to settle and stay in Atlantic Canada generated a headline with my name in it. Granted, the headline was, “Dear Marni Soupcoff: go soak your head.” But still. You don’t get your full name in a headline every day.
By “go soak your head,” I gather that the writer – one Peter Jackson, news editor of The Telegram in St. John’s, Nfld. — meant to take issue with my contention that Atlantic Canada is in dire economic straits and suffering from too much government. (Since Jackson terms Frank McKenna’s suggestion that immigrants be mandated to live in Atlantic Canada a “dubious” one, I’m assuming we at least agree on that.)
For Jackson, my statements about the Atlantic provinces’ heavy regulatory burden amounted to “tired stereotypes about Atlantic Coasters” and can be refuted by pointing out that other provinces have protectionist and absurd alcohol laws, too. I do agree with that second point, but it hardly makes the case that the Atlantic region isn’t in comparatively poor economic and demographic shape.
In all, if immigrants are left free to select their own home towns, they will choose regions that offer them the best hope for making a better life
Let’s start with government bureaucracy. I suspect Jackson was relieved that the only example I used to illustrate the region’s bloated public sector was New Brunswick, which at 85 public employees per 1,000 residents is only one above the national average. Mind you, looking at public sector jobs as a percentage of total civilian jobs in the province, New Brunswick’s score of 20.35 per cent is still significantly higher than British Columbia’s (16.14 per cent), Ontario’s (15.9 per cent), and Alberta’s (15.38 per cent).Anyway, fortunately for me, Marco Navarro Genie, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, emailed me upon reading my column to remind me that the other Atlantic provinces are stronger examples of bloated public sectors.
Newfoundland and Labrador leads with 109 public sector jobs, compared to the national average of 84, but Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island aren’t far behind with 99 and 95, respectively.
But wait. In terms of trusting what I have to say, Jackson offers a warning that may give you some real pause, so please consider it before you form your opinion of the state of Atlantic Canada. The organization I run, the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), has a website that was funded by an anonymous donor. I repeat, our website was designed with the help of donations that could have come from absolutely anyone. It could have been paid for by Donald Trump. Or Dick Cheney. Or Han Solo and Princess Leia’s evil son. Chilling.
While Jackson frets over this sponsorship mystery, I suspect it would be more help for those truly open to thinking about this issue, to know that I do come to the discussion with a bias. Because while the CCF has been helping to challenge the constitutionality of New Brunswick’s protectionist alcohol laws, we have seen that province argue on the record that it is simply too economically fragile to go without the proceeds of liquor sales at majorly inflated prices in government stores. (I get that liquor may be but one example, but it happens to be the one with which I’m most familiar, and the one justification for economic protectionism that I have heard the government clearly express in its own words.)
But these are the debates that immigrants choosing which part of Canada to move to can have amongst themselves. In all, if immigrants are left free to select their own home towns, they will choose regions that offer them the best hope for making a better life for them and their families. In other words, in free “market” of locations, it doesn’t matter what Jackson or I think. It matters what the individuals whose real lives are at issue think. But then, that’s probably just me spreading libertarian dogma again, isn’t it?
Marni Soupcoff is executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation (theccf.ca).